Roberto Rossellini’s follow-up to his breakout Rome Open City was the ambitious, enormously moving Paisan, which consists of six episodes set during the liberation of Italy at the end of World War II, taking place across the country, from Sicily to the northern Po Valley.
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The roughness of Paisan (the acting, writing, and one hilariously obvious continuity error) proposes that sincerity, morality, and relevance are far more important than any notion of professional polish. On that scale, this string of episodes and encounters is remarkable to this day, a patchwork of a moment in time and the forerunner to the Babel school of social realism. And still richer than any of them.
Classic Rossellini shot in the rumbles of post war Italy telling the story of the American liberation through six vignettes following the landing in '43 through the final retreat in late '44. Earliest humanistic chapters truly shine and the grand total is oft emotional and poignant.
I'll have to give this a re-watch, but the multiple stories offer little to hold onto. Perhaps, that is the point as the film is successful at capturing multiple viewpoints from multiple characters. The acting is definitely the weakest aspect, far from what we usually get from neo-realist films.
The destructive nature of humans in 6 very tight vignettes. Covers the beauty/tragedy of communication barriers, the cost of family, ego and obligation, the brutality one faces in times of war. An absolutely massive piece of work, the pace of the film works to make us feel rushed as one would when there is no time to really adjust, to assess one's place in this construct. There isn't much like this.
Neorealism isn't just filming among ruins and poor streets, it's favouring people living and being in a moment, without breaking the space and time that surrounds them, and so being unable to grasp the whole story. In that sense, Paisà goes further than Roma, Città Aperta: in all of its episodes there's something elliptically left out, as we go along with the characters in circumstances that overwhelm them (and us).
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The episodes made me think of Renoirs La règle du jeu, which schifted characters importance smoothly, without having the story embedded in a macro narration.
Each episode was very strong though, and one could see them as a dialectical clash between realistic drama and melodram, the drama alwaysfinisching on top.